There are many common myths about domestic abuse, based on false assumptions and beliefs. In this blog, I try to clear up some of the more common misunderstandings and outright untruths that make it more difficult for people to come forward for help.
Myths about domestic abuse
One of the most common myths is that domestic abuse mainly happens in a certain “type” of family. That’s usually a poor or underprivileged family. Despite the numerous public awareness campaigns over the last few decades, many people still believe it could “never happen to them”. The reality though, is that domestic abuse happens in financially affluent households just as much as any other. In some ways, wanting to preserve a perceived social status can make it even more difficult to report what’s happening.
Another myth that causes real harm is perpetuating a belief that some people will provoke abuse because they enjoy the drama. This myth usually centres around women. Although it’s entirely possible that some abused women will fight back, there is absolutely no evidence that victims deliberately provoke an abuse response from their partners. Every woman I have ever spoken to just wants the abuse to stop.
A myth that gained popularity a few years ago was that people who live with domestic abuse are co-dependent. Co-dependency is characterised by someone who is completely emotionally reliant on a partner who is ill, or who has an addiction. In this case it will be a partner who is abusive. The theory goes that the victim does not want their partner to stop abusing them because they have an excessive need to take care of them, problems and all. Again, I have never met a victim of domestic abuse who doesn’t want the abuse to stop.
There is also an incorrect belief circulating through society that domestic abuse is always about alcohol misuse – remove the problem drinking and there will be no more alcohol-fuelled incidents. But this assumption is wrong. Without a doubt, alcohol misuse exacerbates domestic abuse, which is probably why it spikes during periods when alcohol is more likely to be used such as World Cups and Christmas. But alcohol does not cause domestic abuse. People who are teetotal can also abuse as is proven in communities who do not drink.
The final myth is a common one that even police officers and other professionals buy into. This is that it’s useless to try and help abused women, because they always forgive the abuser, drop charges or resume the relationship. Whilst it’s true that many victims whether they are men or women do forgive their partners over and over, this is because of the insidious cycle of abuse which always involves promises to change by the abuser and making the victim believe that things will be different. It’s incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship for lots of reasons, and victims should always have the help and support they need, regardless of how many times they have forgiven in the past.
Truths about domestic abuse
No person deserves to be abused and everyone should feel safe in their own home.
No one is responsible for someone else’s abuse – the responsibility always lies with the perpetrator.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, marital status, sexuality, or economic background.
Domestic abuse is not about anger, loss of control, alcohol abuse, money problems, career problems or stress – although these things may act as a catalyst. It is always about power and control.
You cannot force others to change, however much you want them to. Sometimes the best option is to walk away.
There is life after domestic abuse. Thousands of people leave controlling and toxic relationships every year and make safer, happier lives.
There is help out there. Police, the Criminal Justice System, Housing and other agencies have a duty to protect and help victims. There are many charities and support services who can offer advice and support.
National Training Manager, NCDV